It’s the season of eating—and there’s lots to love. Too much, perhaps. We tend to think of holiday eating as having an on/off switch: Either we’re going to be really good this year and not eat anything “bad,” or we’re going to just succumb and eat nonstop, and then live to regret it.
There is a middle ground. You can enjoy all the gustatory pleasures that the holidays have to offer without losing control or hating yourself. Try these strategies for avoiding the mind-to-mouth tug-o-war by using the principles of mindful eating.
Learn more about it.
Mindful eating is a lot simpler than you might think, especially if you fear that it involves some kind of Buddhist chants or gongs at mealtime. It does not, I assure you.
The goal of mindful eating is simply this: To tune in to your senses and become aware of not only the food itself, but also your response to food, your enjoyment and experience of it. In so doing, the idea is to shift your relationship to food, not just now during the holidays, but all year long.
The New York Times’s piece on mindful eating, published earlier this year, provides a great primer on mindful eating, and a snapshot on the top experts as well as the top findings on how it can stave off binge eating.
Other great resources: The Center for Mindful Eating, and Cornell’s Brian Wansink, who’s done some fascinating research on the topic.
Sense more, judge less.
In her blog on Psychology Today, Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. describes mindfulness as “awareness without criticism or judgment,” and mindful eating as “paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking.” Start by tuning in to your appetite.
When you find yourself reaching for food, ask yourself—are you actually hungry or just bored? Upset? Stressed? What are you hungry for? Do you really want what you’re about to eat? How will it make you feel? Don’t bully yourself here. The goal is to tune in. When you do eat something, pay attention to the sensation of eating it as well as how your body feels right after and even 30 minutes after eating. When you tune in to appetite, hunger, and the sensation of food, you start to go off autopilot and make more conscious decisions.
Taste more, eat less. Some studies have shown that the more people slow down and pay attention to what they’re consuming, the more satisfied they feel—and the less they need to eat. Make it a point to have at least one quiet meal:
- Eliminate distraction (TV, ipad, phone), and give your food your full attention.
- Take a few slow, deep breaths before diving into your meal. In fact, don’t dive. Wade.
- Really experience your food. What does it look like, smell like, taste like? What does it feel like to chew and swallow? Note when you’re close to three-quarters full, and stop.
Pace yourself at parties. Ah, the holiday party. Full of all kinds of goodies, whether it’s passed hors d’oeuvres or platters of cookies.
Rather than pine for them or hate yourself for giving in, try this:
- Have a healthy meal before the party, even if it’s just something quick at your desk. Be sure you get some lean protein and healthy fats.
- When you get to the party, drink a full glass of water, and then make it your goal to do a tasting, rather than a feasting. If you’re not hungry, you won’t likely be as tempted.
- Taste party offerings at your leisure, and enjoy them without filling up and feeling bad about it later.
Terri Trespicio is a lifestyle expert, media personality, and coach. Visit her at Trespicio.com and @TerriT on Twitter.
Follow us on Twitter @mequilibrium.